That could be me!

WHEN he heard how lucky 30-year-old Ron Round won £102,000 at the bingo, feature writer JAMES MARSTON, also 30, thought 'that could be me!'He decided to have a go at scooping the jackpot.

WHEN he heard how lucky 30-year-old Ron Round won £102,000 at the bingo, feature writer JAMES MARSTON, also 30, thought 'that could be me!'

He decided to have a go at scooping the jackpot. Here's how he got on.

AS Shakespeare famously said: “For now sits expectation in the air,” - at least it did in the foyer of Gala Bingo in Ranelagh Road, on the night I went.

The tension was already building by the time I arrived.

By 6.30pm hundreds of people were passing through the doors, picking up their bingo 'books' and strolling into the 1,050-seater hall for a night out, and hoping to scoop enough cash to pay off the mortgage.

With my new 'dabber' in hand (a chunky red marker pen) I passed the fruit machines - known in the trade as AWPs - amusement with prizes - and walked into the massive bingo hall.

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I was impressed.

The deathly quiet of concentration, the atmosphere of reverent silence so everyone can hear the caller, the smoke filled air of the smoking section, made me realise that bingo is a serious business.

Deputy manager Adrian Gooch filled me in with a few facts.

He said: “The first game will be for a horizontal line of numbers, the second is two lines and the third game is for a full house. There are six games in a book.”

So far so good-ish. I sat down.

Half expecting to hear “legs eleven”, and “two fat ladies” or even “five and nine the Brighton line”, I was to be disappointed because apparently that calling system is a bit old fashioned.

Adrian said: “There's a lot of money at stake nowadays and it is not just older people that come here. Eighteen to 40-year-olds are the largest growing age group.

“We take party bookings, we do hen nights and often young people come here before hitting the clubs and pubs.”

Bingo is pretty popular. That's because there is a jackpot of anything between £25,000 and £200,000 every night and there is a national game every day at Gala.

Bingo is also timed to fit round the life of the community. It doesn't go on too late and it finished in the afternoon in time to pick the children up from school.

As I furiously dabbed, the numbers were called out by caller Stephen Fuller.

It was fun. It takes a bit-but not much-concentration and it is quite exciting as your numbers build up.

Although I didn't win, I thought I might have done, which I guess is part of the appeal.

On my left, shop assistant Jenny Fuller of Langer Road, Felixstowe was enjoying a night out with her friend Jacky Baxter.

Jenny, 59, said: “You get to meet different people and have a good laugh. I've been coming here about four years once or twice a week. We like the atmosphere.”

Angela Miller, 34, of Wexford Road, Ipswich, said she goes to bingo for a night out with her sister.

She added: “It can be quite exciting and it is good fun. My children think it's just old people come to bingo but that's not true.”

Gala's general manager Brad Muffitt summed up the reasons why bingo is increasingly popular.

He said: “You can come out, get a meal, get a drink and there's a chance of winning. It is popular on so many different counts, and across all age groups.

“A wide variety of people come here and bingo is very much part of the community. It fits in with people's lives.”

Do you play bingo? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

There are 1,474,200 unique bingo cards possible.

1. Kelly's Eye

2. Baby's Done It

3. I'm Free

4. Knock at the Door

5. Jack's Alive

6. Chopsticks

7. Lucky Seven

8. Garden Gate

9. Doctor's Orders

10. Tony's Den

Bingo was played by the Romans and was recorded as a children's game under the name of Lotto in 1778.

Commercial bingo first exploded onto the scene in the UK in the 1960s.

More than three million people play bingo regularly in the UK.

There are 688 licensed bingo clubs in the UK.

Eight per cent of the population play bingo - 10pc of all women and 5pc of all men.

The UK's biggest bingo win was £950,000 on December 22, 2002.

Denise Van Outen is a big bingo fan, as are Catherine Zeta Jones and Robbie Williams.

An average British game of bingo takes between four and four and a half minutes.

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